9 Writing Productivity Tips I Learned from Knitting

by Kris Maze

Writers often set New Year’s Resolutions to write more or to be more productive and I am not an exception. Some plans may not have turned out as productive as I would like. Maybe it was unexpected changes at work or writer’s block, but I was not feeling up to writing over this winter month. Then over the holidays I spent some down-time with family and learned a new skill: knitting.

My mother uses her TV binge-watching time to knit blankets.  Blankets.  Plural.  I am blessed with an industrious mother, who is also an entrepreneurial expert.  She bought me a circular knitting circle and colors my kiddo would love and set me to work.

My Initial Conundrum

But I have writing to do! 

And marketing.

And 2022 planning and manuscripts to read and blogs to post.

My to-do list goes on and on (as every writer’s does), but ultimately I gave in.  I was hypnotized by the click-clack of the needles and the softness of the yarn.  I wanted the soft warmth over my knees as I crafted the blanket strand by strand.

Brain science supports learning a new skill because we gain neuroplasticity or the ability of our brains to regrow and reorganize.  From learning and being outside our comfort zone. Testing this boost-the-brain theory, I dove into my new task and poked my way into a messy lane of knots.

9 Story Writing Tips I Gleaned From Knitting

Spinning a yarn is a phrase that has been around for centuries. The phrase has been synonymous for knitting together fishing nets while telling one heck of a tale. The idea of how knitting is similar to writing is not new, but new to me. It also helped me to move forward on my writing project when I was less than motivated. Perhaps it can motivate you as a writer, too.

1. Learning a skill is easier when watching a master in person.

Having someone at your elbow helps when you get stuck. And when learning something new, it is highly likely to run into a few snags. In writing, we can find our plot isn’t working or we need help with characterizations. Luckily, we have many resources available to help us get unstuck. Try these if you need to find writer masters to help you.

  • Writing groups online and critique groups
  • Writing organizations. Check your local library and writing organizations for your genre and type of writing.
  • Classes! I am taking an immersion course with Margie Lawson.  Squee! We are never in the position to not learn more. Litotes, anyone?
  • Amazing blogs like Writers in the Storm where writers can access professional tips and inspiration 3 times a week. For free!  Spread the work, writer peeps! 

Being in a group can benefit you, but you will also find that your experience can help others as well. Share your own talents and give back to your writer friends. Reading in a critique group or helping another writer with a computer issue can validate and energize your own writing. Be are part of your writing community and see where it takes you.

2. Start with the basics.  

There are knitting masterpieces and there is the single loop technique I am trying to master.  After nearly 11000 of these simple loops, you have a warm, unique, handcrafted blanket that you can share. A hundred thousand more, and then you can try a different technique. 

In knitting, I started with a solid rectangle. No sleeves or fancy schmancie patterns. I needed to just get the loops and rhythm. I needed to find my groove.

We do this with writing as well. It is so simple, but not easy to get words on the page. Keep up a good writing habit and don’t stress too much about the quality of the first draft. First drafts are all notoriously bad. Getting the words onto the page is a success.

We can quiet the inner editor and work with the words we have written. Keep it simple and keep writing. However you feel, keep going your next page is just a few words away.

3. Consistency and Planning are keys to making a successful blanket and to finishing your novel.

The Rule of 4 can help writers maximize their writing time.  Studies show that even the most amazing of humans can only focus at a high level for about 3 to 4 hours a day.  That’s it.

So, given that we are mostly amazing humans with the ability to laser focus for under the time I would prefer to take a nap, how and when you spend that focus time can make a difference in how productive your writing life is.

Using the Rule of 4 with your time

Candy crush may be a good mental release, but is it getting your full attention your writing life could?

Is another hobby or activity eating up your attention? Writing? Social Media? Knitting? (hee hee) How are you using your 3 to 4?  

I prefer to get my hours in during the morning when my mind is the most fresh. It also hasn’t had time for the daily grind to assault my mental energy yet. I try to keep it from draining my most quality focus time.

The same goes for writing time

How much time does it take you to write a page?  To create a scene?  Do you spend more time in worldbuilding? Or do you like to dig into the minutia of deep editing? Find out what your writing habits are and keep track of the time you need to compete a project.  

Keep your laptop or notebook nearby.

Have your work space physically where you can see it. If your computer is next to your TV, you are reminded to dig into your manuscript before watching that enticing mystery. It is commonly said, you can’t edit an empty page.  The process of writing gets smoother the more you make it a habit. Keep your writing near by in part of your life to complete your project sooner. 

Calculate the time you need

In knitting, you plan. A lot.  You figure out how many scans you need and find out how many rows it makes. You need to know how big a blanket you need and purchase the right amount of materials.  In writing, you can estimate how many words you write per minute.

One of the valuable lessons I learned participating in Nanowrimo was how many words per minute I wrote. By watching this statistic over the month, I saw when I wrote more and took mental note of my patterns. It also motivated me to make that number a little faster by focusing harder when I had a writing sprint. A bit of the chicken or the egg situation, being aware of my rate of writing kept me focused and increased my output.

If it takes you 45 minutes a day to write a couple pages or a scene, how many days will you need for a chapter?  How many chapters will complete your novel?  Plan for the time and watch your project grow.

4. Use the right tools and prepare for back ups.

While knitting, one of our circle needles broke. As it unhinged, the blanket it held together sat in peril as we rubber-banded the thread to keep it from unraveling.  We rushed to the store and bought a fairly inexpensive second set of needles.

When has that happened to you when writing?

If you said never, you are one of those lucky ones we all love to hate! Everyone has lost a file or accidentally erased something important.

Writing takes time and we want to have backups to protect our work.  Knowing where your work is located and having a easy-to-follow filing system will alleviate writer stress during your project.  

I am guilty of this. I am setting up a new computer and trying to take a more focused approach to create my filing system.  It is better than the I’ve-got-it-somewhere approach that I used to use.  Using the find feature often isn’t the best plan, but it was my go-to under my old system.

How can you better prepare for the unknown and unexpected?

5. Fixing Flaws

So, you may have a manuscript that is in a solid first draft. It is time for another look-over.  Let’s say you figure out during this second review that your protagonist is too lackluster.  Or perhaps you figure out a better fatal flaw that ups the stakes and makes your story soar.

It takes unraveling to do this.  Sometimes it is better than having a knit blanket with a hole. Sometimes it only takes an extra stitch to fix.  You decide, but be sure to fix those flaws, or you will leave your reader feeling cold.

Need a little extra help with conflict? Try the Conflict Thesaurus and other resources at One Stop for Writers.

6. Starting over! 

Sometimes the project is a total loss.  Unravel the string and enjoy the satisfaction of pulling that thread.  It will go faster the second time writing your story and it

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